Maipú 2: Memory as Fiction?

(Weather’s turned with a vengeance-- variable & cloudy for nearly two weeks, with dramatic bouts of rain & thunder. I only managed my first run in a week yesterday...)

When the voice of Maria Callas came through the
speakers in Dr. Pedro Rosell’s 4x4 compact, my tipsy
dehydration spun into dizzy culture shock. To my
embarrassment on being corrected & immediately
recognizing the muted brass tone in the voice’s lower
register, the name I’d unreflectively blurted out
was, ‘Montserrat Caballé?!’

I made an attempt to recover some cultural
credibility by asking if it was the mad scene from
‘Lucia di Lammermoor’— but I was wrong, again.
It was another mad scene, the kind on which Callas
built her name & reputation, attacking them as she
did at truly frightening emotional pitch; but this
was Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’.

I could lay some responsibility for my slightly
delirious state at the feet of Dr. Rosell’s
charm & generosity—
At ‘Campo Negro’, the intimately scaled facility
he's gradually built & shares with some of his
winemaking students, I finally had a taste of the
elusive St. Jeannet.
Only a hint of subtler, more complex character was
left in the wine after nearly a month sitting around
the winery in a hand-stoppered bottle— all tart
Granny Smith apple by then, but surprisingly
crisp & bright.
(The winery has no onsite storage & the lone bottle
was the result of some serendipitous forgetfulness.)

I was then treated to a course in local terroir,
sampling five Malbecs-- one each from the lower
bench & the 900 meter ridge planting blocks
of ‘El Reposo’ vineyard, where we were
located; & three from a property in ‘La Consulta’,
which is near
San Carlos towards the southern end
of Valle de Uco— one of them a different clone-- also
planted at varying, if much higher, elevations…
Then he served three Cabernet samples from the
same high altitude vineyard, then a Merlot…

Now, after introducing me to his wife, heiress of
the Navarro Correas family, & freshening my palate
with a glass of his new baby bubbly, he wanted to show
me this baby’s birthplace-- his new partnership’s
winery home, 'Bodega Cruzat', still being built in
Perdriel, & dedicated exclusively to producing
sparkling wines…

What particularly fueled my sense of culture shock—
or more like social dislocation—is that I’d managed to
find Campo Negro winery after having lunch at a truck
stop depot, the storage & rest area for a shipping
company that carries corn feed & oil from Córdoba
to Chile.
The woman running the depot kitchen had worked
at what once was a sweet little place called
La Casa de Ofelia’, now locked behind a cyclone-fence
gate sporting a ‘For Sale’ sign. I learned this from
her sister, who owns a little kiosk or ‘despensa’
further down Franklin Villanueva road, where I
stopped, after the morning’s first vigorous sixty-odd
minute hike, to rehydrate & ask about alternatives
for a bite to eat. After hearing some of my story, she
dissuaded me from taking what admittedly looked
like a particularly desolate stretch of dirt road to loop
my way back home to Bodega Cecchin & actually drove
me to the lunch room at the depot.
On top of everything else, the sisters (-apologies,
must ask to be reminded of their names!) turned
out to be cousins to my host at the time, Oscar
Alberto Cecchin!

To backtrack further: I had arrived fifteen minutes
after Midday to find the gates to Domaine Saint Diego
closed, & I’d been told Sr. Mendoza & his family
were actually just back from vacation & the winery
would reopen the following day.
I would end up hiking about 28 kilometres (17.5 miles)
the next day, twice to the winery & back, with similarly
disappointing results…

(--to be continued...)